Petting Zoo: Life-like robotic environment


Petting Zoo is the latest work developed by experimental architecture and design studio Minimaforms. The project is speculative life-like robotic environment that raises questions of how future environments could actively enable new forms of communication with the everyday. Artificial intelligent creatures have been designed with the capacity to learn and explore behaviors through interaction with participants. Within this immersive installation interaction with the pets foster human curiosity, play, forging intimate exchanges that are emotive and evolving over time. Beyond technology the project explores new forms of enabled communication between people and their environment.

The installation exhibits life-like attributes through forms of conversational interaction establishing communication with users that is emotive and sensorial. Conceived as an immersive installation environment, social and synthetic forms of systemic interactions allow the pets to engage and evolve their behaviors over time. Pets interact and stimulate participation with users through the use of animate behaviors communicated through kinesis, sound and illumination. These  behaviors evolve over time through interaction enabling each pet to develop personalities. Pet interactions are stimulated through interaction with human users or between other pets within the population. Intimacy and curiosity are explored as enabling agents that externalize personal experience through forms of direct visual, haptic and aural communication. 

Early historical experiments that examine similar issues can be found in the seminal cybernetic work of the Senster developed by the British cybernetic sculptor, Edward Ihnatowicz, Gordon Pask’s The Colloquy of Mobiles, and Walter Gray Walter’s first electronic autonomous robots (Tortoises) called Elmer and Elsie. Petting Zoo continues Minimaforms ongoing research in participatory and enabling frameworks examining cybernetic and behavior based design systems that can be found in other works of theirs like Becoming Animal exhibited in MoMA’s Talk To Me show and Memory Cloud: Detroit (2011) ICA London (2008). 

Internal patterns of observation allow the pets to synchronize movements and behavioral responses. Through active proto-typing a correlated digital / analogue feedback has been developed to allow the system to evolve relationships that avoid repetitive controller tendencies. 

Spatial Interfacing 
Awareness of participant(s) is enabled through camera tracking and data scanning that allows for identifying human presence within contextual scenes. Real time camera streams are processed and coupled with blob tracking and optical flow analysis to locate positions and gestural activity of participants. Inactive participation of a performer in the environment can stimulate responses of disinterest and boredom.  

Multi-User Interaction
Collective participation is enabled by the ability of our system to identify and real-time map the number of performers within a durational sequence. 


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